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BREAKING NEWS & VIEWS

Consumer Reports Launches on iPad


Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Consumer Reports has never been one to razzle-dazzle its audience with digital magic. The brand never really had to. Its core-value proposition of impartial and extensively lab-tested product reviews made ConsumerReports.org the most successful paid online content project among magazine media.

And so it is not surprising that Consumer Reports comes onto the iPad both quietly and a bit tentatively. Released this week, the digital version of CR is available as a free “preview issue” in the Apple App Store. Smaller than a typical issue, the 125+ MB download offers a sample of things to come from what we imagine will be more regular releases. We were pleasantly surprised that CR did leverage some of the familiar publishing tricks of iPad magazines to make its legendary content even more accessible.

The issue includes some front-matter features, including a good slide-show of products that are shrinking their package size rather than their price. Tap-to-reveal mechanics are used throughout to pull slides onto the screen. Reviews of tablets, toasters and SUVs fill the feature well.

In most cases, CR uses touch technology to organize familiar content more efficiently. Touch tabs atop ratchet the reader through “Report,” “Recommendations” and “Ratings” sections of the typical article without any page swiping. In the SUV feature, reorienting the screen to landscape mode fills it with a comparative chart and ratings of six models that lets the reader easily scroll through a long list of rated product features.

While much of the presentation is workmanlike and well-done, there are glaring omissions. There is a dearth of video in the CR issue, which is a disappointment considering that the wealth of streaming media that the brand is pouring onto its Web site. In fact, it is this link between the digital magazine and the wealth of data available at the CR site that we miss most.

ConsumerReports.org has grown to be an online powerhouse of content that in some ways overshadows the magazine itself. While the basic project at hand here seems to be making the print experience more efficient through digitization, the cross-platform promise of a Consumer Reports app should run much deeper than that.

We can't think of a single magazine brand where the potential for marrying online resources with app usability has so much potential to drive a break though paid content project on tablets. Here's hoping we see such an effort someday. The digital version of Consumer Reports, while good enough on its own merits, only leaves us wondering how so much more could be done here.


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